An otherwise mellowed and sober Shivraj Singh Chouhan has bared his sterner side in his fourth term in power, especially after an emphatic win in the recent Madhya Pradesh assembly bypolls where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party grabbed 19 seats and Congress party could clinch only nine.
The chief minister can be seen exuding greater conviction and assertion on governance issues primarily when it comes to punishing those who breach the norms.
To start with, Chouhan was always known to take a secular path contrary to the inclinations of the BJP’s parental body, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), but things are different now.
The CM is seen toeing the Hindutva line more often than not, which was visible in his speeches where he openly spoke against 'love jihad'. "Will not allow 'love jihad' in MP," he said in a rally in Umaria district. Soon after that state home minister Narottam Mishra got prepared the draft bill Freedom of Religion 2020, provisioning a five-year jail term for those who engage in forced conversion and marriages and those who help them.
The jail term was later hiked to ten years and Chouhan has proposed tabling of the bill in the upcoming winter session of the assembly.
When it comes to law and order issues, especially on crimes against women, ‘Mama' Shivraj has been strict against offenders and those accused. Among prominent names, Pyare Miyan, a newspaper owner based from Bhopal faced stringent action including dismantling of his illegal properties in the city.
Unauthorised properties of criminals in Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Jabalpur and other cities have been razed by local authorities following a nod from the state capital.
Self-styled godman Namdev Das Tyagi, aka Computer Baba, who was an aide of Chouhan prior to 2018 and later joined hands with Congress leader Kamal Nath had borne the brunt of the fallout as his illegal properties have been attached or demolished. Some of his notorious disciples who flourished under his shade too saw their real estate structures get pulled down in Indore. The seer was also thrown behind bars.
Several crooked builders with the background of astonishing growth in the past few years too were battered by the Shivraj Chouhan government in Bhopal and Indore.
Recently, some Irani community members had attacked the police as the cops went into their locality to nab a notorious criminal. The administration soon smashed their illegal encroachments and freed land worth crores.
On Friday, Chouhan held a meeting with top officers at Mantralaya and ordered a phased crackdown on the drug mafia which is finding a foothold in Madhya Pradesh. During the meeting, the chief minister ordered the closure of around 800 hookah lounges in the state.
From December 15 to 22, an anti-drug-addiction campaign will be launched in the state. The action comes close on the heels of the Centre's Narcotics Control Bureau sharing a list of 15 cities of MP including Bhopal, Indore, Ujjain, Gwalior, and others, that are fast emerging as drug hubs.
Taking prompt action, the police have cracked down on the drug mafia in Bhopal and Indore and seized large amounts of contraband last week.
During a review of the law and order situation in the state, Chouhan candidly said that public works and transfer postings will henceforth not have any under-the-table deals; officers will get postings only on the basis of their work and performances.
Chouhan took senior cops and collectors to task in a seven-hour-long gruelling review meeting. He slammed several collectors for not paying attention to queries forwarded by the chief minister’s office.
The superintendent of police, Neemuch, and collector, Katni, were removed hours after the meeting as the CM wasn’t pleased with their performance. Sources said that the chief minister has also asked for a list of IGs, DIGs and SPs who are not performing up to the mark.
The sources also said that Chouhan is planning to bring about massive administrative surgery in the districts, especially in those districts where the BJP lost in the bypolls.
Often accused of aiding sand mining, the Chouhan government has lodged 647 cases on illegal sand miners and sand worth Rs 2 crore has been seized, an officer said in the review meeting.
As many as 184 cases were registered against chit fund companies and Rs 17.60 crore was refunded to the investors. 1,711 cases were registered under cyber-crime till October and an amount of Rs 1.97 crore was recovered and returned to the victims.
A total of 34 vehicles were impounded for illegally bringing in paddy and millet from other states. Action was taken against 234 land grabbers in 200 cases, freeing more than 315 hectares of government land worth Rs 285 crore in the month of November alone. The CM had recently warned that stringent action will be taken if crops from other states are brought to MP and sold here under government procurement.
A drive is also on against ration mafia in the state and 17 cases have been registered and 22 people have been arrested so far.
Authorities have cracked down on counterfeit products and adulteration in edible and non-edible products in the state too.
Meanwhile, Chouhan, who prior to the bypolls was under immense pressure from partymen and new entrants from the Scindia group, seems unrelenting and firm after the elections.
The CM who was pressured to expand the cabinet and accommodate old partymen and Scindia loyalists, is taking his time. His assertive public comments like, "There is no immediate plan for cabinet expansion", indicate that he is not buckling under pressure.
Besides several party seniors who are feeling sidelined with exclusion from the cabinet, Rajya Sabha member Scindia is finding it hard to accommodate his supporters. The former Congress leader, who was accorded a grand welcome in the BJP early this year, has met the CM thrice in one month for his supporters to get key responsibilities.
Two of his aides—Govind Singh Rajput and Tulsiram Silawat who had resigned in October after completion of six months without being MLAs— are finding it hard to make a comeback in the cabinet despite their impressive wins in the bypolls.
Those who lost in the elections, including Imarti Devi, Aidal Singh Kansana and Girraj Dandotiya, too are yet to be accommodated in boards and corporations.
Others from the Scindia camp awaiting appointments in the party organisation are also waiting as party state unit head VD Sharma is yet to form his state executive.
At the Mantralaya, the chief minister has taken transfer postings in an iron grip, giving his ministers some anxious moments as large numbers of their recommendations are gathering dust. Presently transfers are banned and are only possible after an approval from the CM. Sources said that MPs, MLAs and senior party workers too are worried with the approach from Chouhan especially ahead of civic polls when transfers postings won’t be allowed due to the model code of conduct.
During the previous cabinet meeting at Mantralaya in Bhopal, Chouhan had urged all his ministers to get innovative ideas prepared by their departments and work on them with their teams. He had asked his ministers to fast-track works started under the Atmanirbhar MP project and monitor them constantly.
“Shivraj Singh Chouhan was under immense pressure ahead of the bypolls but the thumping win has not only helped him grow in stature but his hold on the party state unit and government has increased too,” said a senior political journalist from Bhopal who wished anonymity.